13 ideas to improve policing in Pennsylvania

At least 2 will be considered by a legislative panel next week

  • Ed Mahon/PA Post
PennLive and Spotlight PA report that House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) is expected to announce today that he will resign before the end of his term. It’s not clear when he will step down, but he is expected to lay out that timetable today. Turzai announced back in January that he would not seek reelection this fall, but didn’t lay out a timetable for his departure at that time. Rep. Bryan Cutler (Lancaster) is the next in line in the Pa. House GOP and would likely ascend to the speakership. — Ed Mahon, PA Post reporter

Courtesy Pa. House Democrats

Five Pa. House Democrats hold a Black Lives Matter protest while state Rep. Christopher Rabb (D-Philadelphia) delivers remarks from the Speaker’s rostrum on Monday, June 8, 2020. Black lawmakers prevented the regular session from beginning as scheduled in order to protest the killing of George Floyd and to call on the GOP majority to take up a slate of police reform bills.

During their Monday protest inside the Pennsylvania House of Representatives chamber, Black legislators repeatedly said they want to see action on more than a dozen bills related to policing..

Later on Monday, state Reps. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) and Summer Lee (D-Allegheny) both made the same point about the proposals: They aren’t radical.

So what are the proposals? Here’s a rundown of what 13 bills currently awaiting action in the House Judiciary Committee would do:

One thing you don’t see on the list is defunding the police.

Other bills in the state Senate: The list of bills that House members want to see action on includes six others in the state Senate,  according to House Democratic Caucus spokesman Bill Patton.  Some of those measures overlap with legislation on the House list. But others don’t. That includes a proposal to increase the situations when police are required to record an interrogation.

The Auditor General: On Tuesday, Eugene DePasquale (D) unveiled his own plan for police reform. According to Erie News Now, the proposal “focuses on the events that occur to a person following an arrest and charges are filed.” DePasquale, who’s challenging Rep. Scott Perry in one of the most competitive House races in the nation this fall, said: “Enacting criminal justice reforms can produce big savings, big taxpayer savings for Pennsylvania taxpayers while creating a more equitable approach to enforcing our laws.”

Further reading about police reform at the local level:

Best of the rest

The Wolf administration has been criticized for its slow response to the coronavirus in Pennsylvania nursing homes, and is only now mandating universal testing.

Dan Nott / For Spotlight PA

The Wolf administration has been criticized for its slow response to the coronavirus in Pennsylvania nursing homes, and is only now mandating universal testing.

  • Nursing home testing: Spotlight PA’s Aneri Pattani takes another look at the lack of COVID-19 testing in nursing homes across Pennsylvania. Charlene Harrington, a professor of sociology and nursing at the University of California San Francisco, said the newest plan from Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is “really incredibly slow.”

  • How much federal CARES Act money will your county receive? PA Post’s Ben Pontz broke down the numbers. He also included this delightful lede: “Lancaster and York counties share quite a bit: a river, a congressman, and an historical allusion to the War of the Roses in their names, to name a few.” (But Lancaster is receiving a lot more money than York.)

  • Reopening concerns: As businesses reopen, they are changing floor plans to accommodate social distancing recommendations. And that’s a concern for firefighters, who want to make sure exits aren’t accidentally blocked, flammable hand sanitizers are stored safely, and parking lots remain accessible to emergency vehicles. See the Reading Eagle’s story.

  • Alternating school days: One idea to ensure there’s enough space between desks at one Lehigh Valley school district is having students attend classes in person on alternating days, based on their last names, The Morning Call reports.

  • An end to the disaster declaration? The Pennsylvania General Assembly last night approved a resolution to end Gov. Wolf’s three-month-old coronavirus disaster declaration. Republican leaders and the Wolf administration disagree about what happens now. As Ben Pontz reported last month, this separation of powers fight is likely headed to court.

  • Primary lesson: Lots and lots of mailed ballots didn’t arrive at county elections offices by the deadline for last week’s Pa. primary. In some cases, that was OK, as Gov. Wolf ordered an extension for a handful of counties most affected by the George Floyd protests. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Lai, the “clear takeaway” for election officials is that the November vote “could be even worse.”

  • Big days for Erie: Today and tomorrow are big days for people of Erie. The state Board of Education will hold a virtual hearing to decide on the county’s community college application. Today’s hearing begins at 1 p.m. For details on how to watch, click here. Thursday’s hearing starts at 9 a.m. I’ll be covering live, and you can follow me on Twitter @edmahonreporterGoErie.com’s Matthew Rink recently took a deep look at the plan to fund the community college.


Tuesday’s Context linked to a Facebook page where groups associated with the George Floyd protests in Philadelphia listed their demands. That list, as a reader from Pen Argyl noted, doesn’t reflect the views of all protesters, nor was how it was drafted (and who endorsed it) clearly listed. That’s a fair critique. We linked to it to give readers an idea of what protesters are demanding, but our labeling of that link should have been clearer.

In the interest of keeping the conversation going, here are a few journalistic attempts to explain what the protesters want to achieve:

Subscribe to The Contextour weekday newsletter

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Up Next

Police reform effort must acknowledge racist roots of criminal law